A joint investigation conducted by the State University of New York and the SUNY Research Foundation “found fraud and misconduct” by staff in a Buffalo State College graduate program, according to newly revealed correspondence between the campus president and the state inspector general obtained by The Alt through a Freedom of Information Law request.
The research foundation “presented” the results of the probe to the Erie County District Attorney’s office, which chose not to prosecute personnel within Buffalo State’s International Graduate Programs for Educators, Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said in a letter dated March 31, 2016.
The IGPE personnel are not identified in the correspondence, and their alleged “fraud and misconduct” is not detailed. College public relations staff did not return requests for comment.
According to details available on Buffalo State’s website, IGPE is a somewhat unorthodox program, offering a master of science degree in multidisciplinary studies and “professional development for educators working at American/International Schools.” Courses can be taken by groups of teachers at host schools or online. Staff at those schools work “with our staff to select courses that will be offered,” the college says.
The research foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with the university, had managed IGPE—a violation of state law and SUNY policy, Leahy said in her letter, citing a report prepared by SUNY and the foundation.
“According to State Education Law, SUNY Income Fund Reimbursable Guidelines, and SUNY Policy for Third Party Payment of Program Costs, ‘revenues derived from tuition-related activities and third party contacts must be deposited into a State account,’” Leahy wrote, quoting from the report.
Spokespeople for the foundation and the SUNY system did not return requests for comment. Erie County DA John Flynn, who was not in office at the time the case was reviewed, told The Alt that prosecutors eventually determined there was insufficient evidence to prove criminality beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a response letter to Leahy dated May 12, 2016, President Conway-Turner pledged to remove the research foundation as administrator of IGPE and determine whether the nonprofit was improperly managing any other campus programs “that require the payment of tuition by students or involve credit bearing courses” by the end of the fiscal year.
“Please be assured that Buffalo State has taken the issues identified in the reviews done by both SUNY and the Research Foundation very seriously, and has been proactive in taking steps to improve the operations of IGPE and to ensure that IGPE operates in a manner that is fully compliant with NYS and SUNY requirements,” the campus president wrote.
Read the correspondence below.